Essex Farm Note

Week 30, 2018

It’s all about the water this week. We got an inch of rain – enough to give the vegetables a much-needed drink, enough to keep the grass alive, but not quite the soaking we need in order to revive the pastures and ensure a second cut of hay. It is officially dry out there. A few days ago, the soil 2” down contained .05 m3/m3. For comparison, .60 m3/m3 is saturated; we are usually hoping for less than .25 m3/m3 in order to be able to work the soil; .05 is the driest we have seen. The rain brought it up a tick, to .08. Yesterday, Mark and I walked the whole farm, assessing what we have for grazing. The fields we usually use for dairy cows are not good enough now to support their high nutritional needs; we’ll shift the sheep to those sections and supplement the dairy cows with some of the 1st cut hay. Looking at the forecast, we have a chance at a little more rain through Saturday, before the sun comes out again. I am heartened by the amount that fell in other parts of our region, as rain tends to beget rain. Right now, our vegetable yields are low but not frighteningly so. (We overplanted, as usual.) Remember that dry weather amplifies flavors. That’s a good thing for some crops – the basement of the farmhouse is full of just-harvested tomatoes, basil and green garlic today, and smells like Italian heaven -  but other crops, like celery, can go from intense-tasting to bitter. If you want some very intense celery to use for cooking or freezing let us know and we’ll cut some for you. It’s not going to be palatable enough for fresh eating this year.

Whether we get more rain or not, the great tomato wave is coming. We have been harvesting slicers with just a blush of red on them, because the crows are pecking into the fully ripe fruits before we get them. Ripen them out of direct sun, preferably in a paper bag. When the harvest peaks, the flow of red ripe fruit should outpace the crows. Meanwhile, in the next row, the potatoes are growing, slowly. We expect to harvest new potatoes for the share in a week or two.

The biggest water news of the week came from a few square feet of ground just south of the office, where the Feeley brothers were drilling our new well. This was the last piece of the CREP grant we started last year, which put 35 acres of waterway under protection. It also came at a time when we were starting to really need a new well, as the old one is shallow, and has persistent problems with silt. The Feeleys went a nerve-wracking 100 feet before hitting bedrock, and then that rock was so hard they broke 2 drill bits on the next section. At 200 feet, it was still dry, and starting to get expensive. We were nervous, but decided to press on to 300 feet. They hit water at 265’, and at 317’, the flow  was a respectable 10 gallons per minute, which is where we gratefully stopped. Right now, the water is coming out of the ground at 1.5 gallons per minute all on its own, under artesian pressure, bringing the chill clean taste of deep earth with it. It comes from a large aquifer that sits directly under the farm but is notoriously hard to get to. We got lucky and are grateful to the Feeleys for their good work. And that’s the news from Essex Farm for this slightly-less-dry 30th week of 2018. Like us on Facebook to see what we post there, or find us at 518-963-4613, essexfarm@gmail.com, on the web/Insta at essexfarmcsa, or on the farm, any day but Sunday.

–Kristin & Mark Kimball

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